If you know the Big East, (especially its conference tournament) you can no doubt expect five days of basketball mayhem next March when the conference invades Madison Square Garden for its annual postseason tournament.
This week, the mayhem may have received a kick start when athletic directors and conference officials voted to uphold the Big East tournament's current format, wherein the top four seeds get the benefit (or lack thereof in some circles) of a double bye through the first two rounds into the quarterfinals. The coaches of the Big East programs met in May to discuss changing the system and unanimously agreed to do away with the current structure, but the high brass opted to look the other way.
From someone that has been around the Big East since 2007 as a play-by-play announcer on student radio and now professionally via an online stream, I can relate to both sides here. Having gone to St. John's and seen the Johnnies pick up a No. 13 seed in consecutive years, (both behind the microphone and as a fan) it is not as big a deal for schools in the middle or lower echelon of the conference since they will be playing on either or both of the first two days no matter what. However, the likelihood of lower seeds advancing (such as in 2009 when No. 16 DePaul, who had not won a conference game all season, upset 9th-seeded Cincinnati in the first game of the tournament) would be increased.
On the other side of the coin is the powerhouse end of the conference; schools like Syracuse and Villanova among others, who have consistently placed within the top six in the standings. In fact, Villanova is one of only two schools to receive a double bye in each of the first two years under the format, and both Villanova and Pittsburgh (the other to finish in the top four in each of the last two years) have been eliminated before the championship game, which attests to the belief held by the coaches that the double bye is indeed a momentum killer.
Quite honestly, the proposed changes, which included two days to complete the first round, would benefit all programs in the sense that it gives more of an NCAA Tournament atmosphere to the conference tourney. I don't know about you, but the prospect of schools playing on consecutive nights in the "Big Dance" would cause the tournament to lose a great deal of its long-standing mystique since one school may have gutted out a dramatic overtime victory the night before and may not have the strength to match up to their opponent, who could very well have had it easier. Not only that, but you wouldn't be going from a team on your level to a top 25 program the way the Big East tournament currently sets up for seeds 12 and below.
It's been said that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," but in this case, sometimes you need to redesign before it actually does break.